Tom Lee Park

Memphis, TN

In design

Memphis River Parks Partnership


30 acres


The city of Memphis is located on a great bluff that rises above the Mississippi River. Since the early 19th century, its riverfront has largely been used as a working yard for industry and transport, cluttered with terminal buildings, grain elevators, and barges that obstructed the public from directly accessing the river. Today, as Memphians embrace a renewed relationship with the Mississippi, the new Tom Lee Park will catalyze the reunification of river and city by transforming a significant piece of the riverfront into a signature park where community life can flourish along the water’s edge.

Developed in collaboration with SCAPE, the park’s design is informed by the dynamic patterns of flow that are so characteristic of the Mississippi, whose winding oxbows and other features have etched the region over time. Both architecture and landscape work together to smoothly facilitate the movement of people into and through the park, and to capture—on land—the sense of motion and change that the river exemplifies.

To open up access to the park and create a welcoming sense of arrival, the design includes five new and improved entrances with defined landing points that extend from major streets. From here, visitors are greeted by new topography, plantings, and paths that frame views of the river, guide them to specific landmarks, and connect them with the park’s outdoor spaces, which range in scale from open lawns for games and cookouts to wooded micro-forests for shaded rest.

The new entrances tie into a city-wide network of riverfront walking and biking trails, creating direct connections to key civic assets and institutions such as the National Civil Rights Museum and the future home of the Brooks Museum of Art.

Views of the Mississippi River are framed, preserved, and enhanced with the park's new topography.

The new Tom Lee Park is comprised of four primary zones: the Civic Gateway welcomes visitors from Beale Street and Vance Park at the north end, an Active Core offers space for lively and flexible activities, the Community Batture provides shade and elevated views of the river, and the Habitat Terraces offer a more intimate experience of the natural landscape at the park's southern end.

The park’s program incorporates the ideas and input of Memphians from across the city. Designed to support their ambitions and favorite activities, new structures emerge from the landscape to flexibly accommodate a range of uses—sports and fitness, outdoor education, community dinners, and concerts, to name just a few—and to elevate them with the living backdrop of the Mississippi.

The Active Core of the park provides open and flexible spaces for gatherings of all sizes.

In addition to providing shelter for larger community events and activities, the Civic Canopy also offers smaller scale spaces for intimate gatherings on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Tom Lee Park Canopy Section Sports, designed by Studio Gang and SCAPE
Tom Lee Park Canopy Section Dance Party, designed by Studio Gang and SCAPE
Tom Lee Park Canopy Section Game Day, designed by Studio Gang and SCAPE
Tom Lee Park Canopy Section Concert, designed by Studio Gang and SCAPE

With its high clearances, the Civic Canopy can flexibly host a variety of events and activities, from large to small, throughout the seasons year-round.

The Point Bar Pavilions are constructed of reclaimed materials and provide park amenities such as food and beverage, restrooms, and storage space.

Inspired by the industrial structures that once operated on the riverfront, these pavilions and shelters introduce a material aesthetic that embraces the palette of Memphis and the patina that will come with time.

Throughout the park, regionally-specific plant species provide shade and beauty for people as well as critical habitat for wildlife. Well-adapted to life at the Mississippi’s edge, these trees, shrubs, and other plants make the park a resilient and ever-changing place that marks the passage of the seasons—a peaceful spot within the city for Memphians to reconnect with each other and nature’s rhythms.

The Canopy Walk gives visitors an immersive experience of an ecologically-diverse area at the far south end of the park.

Consultant Team

SCAPE, landscape architect

Kimley-Horn, civil engineer

Thornton Tomasetti, structural engineer

Applied Ecological Services, ecologist

Innovative Engineering Services, MEP

DataBased+, sustainability

Randy Burkett, lighting design


Honorable Mention, The Architect's Newspaper Best of Design Awards, Unbuilt – Landscape Category, 2019



Los Angeles Times — "Goodbye, Guy on a Horse. A New Wave of Monument Design Is Changing How We Honor History"

Stone Stories

The Los Angeles Times includes Studio Gang's 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale installation Stone Stories in a commentary on the evolution of civic monuments.


The Architect's Newspaper — "2019 AN Best of Design Awards"

Arkansas Arts Center museum in Little Rock, a cultural building designed by Studio Gang

Five Studio Gang projects were selected for the 2019 AN Best of Design Awards.


Daily Memphian — "Tom Lee Park Design Retooled"

Daily Memphian — "Tom Lee Park design retooled"

"An expanded area honoring the legacy of park namesake Tom Lee would join a centrally located cluster of multipurpose athletic courts and a nature area with a tower on the river at the 30-acre park’s south end."


Memphis Flyer — "Riverfront Reboot: New leaders and New Plans for Memphis' Waterfront"

Memphis Flyer — "Riverfront Reboot: New leaders and New Plans for Memphis' Waterfront"

"To transform the flat, wide-open park...MRPP picked Studio Gang and SCAPE... to help the park 'reach its full civic potential.'"


Memphis Commercial Appeal — “Memphis Riverfront Redesign Effort Hits ‘Warp Speed’ as [Mississippi River] Park Nears Opening”

Studio Gang’s project for Memphis’s Tom Lee Park, first proposed in our Memphis Riverfront Concept, will begin construction in 2019.


Metropolis — “At the Venice Biennale, Jeanne Gang Uses Memphis’s Cobblestones to Reflect on Monuments and Messy Civic Histories”

Metropolis — "At the Venice Biennale, Jeanne Gang Uses Memphis’s Cobblestones to Reflect on Monuments and Messy Civic Histories"

Zach Mortice pens an in-depth feature on the ideas and process behind Studio Gang’s Stone Stories installation for the US Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Biennale in Venice.


New York Times — “Creators of Architectural Exhibits Reach to the Cosmos for Inspiration”

Stone Stories Exhibition at the Venice Biennale by Studio Gang

Studio Gang’s Stone Stories installation is profiled along with the six other projects that make up Dimensions of Citizenship, this year’s US Pavilion exhibition at the 16th International Architecture Biennale in Venice.